US defense contractor Lockheed Martin has begun producing CH-53K helicopters for the Israeli Air Force, according to a report Thursday published by the Hebrew-language Israel Defense news site.
The contractor will also produce the integrated avionics systems needed for the Israel Air Force. The contract for production of the first four helicopters was signed last month.
The CH-53K helicopters will replace the Israeli Air Force (IAF) fleet of modified CH-53D Yasur helicopters, which have been in Israel’s inventory for over 50 years. The company said that with a reduction in support equipment footprint compared to the legacy fleet, the CH-53K will mean reduced operating costs as well.
The helicopter’s larger cabin is able to carry 463L pallets and High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), which provides flexible configurations for maximum mission effectiveness, and facilitates loading/unloading of cargo without reconfiguring and removing troop seating.
“We are building on decades of experience and partnership in supporting the CH-53E for the Marine Corps and the CH53D for the IAF. Sikorsky has a deep understanding of the world-wide heavy lift mission enabling our team and proven supply chain to offer tailored solutions resulting in more efficient missions,“ Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo said in a statement. “We are committed to provide training and sustainment support to ensure a smooth entry into service for the IAF.”
The aircraft will be manufactured at Sikorsky headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut, leveraging the company’s digital build and advanced technology production processes.
Lockheed Martin / Sikorsky won the $52.5 million tender for the parts and equipment needed to manufacture the 12 helicopters, according to an announcement from the US Department of Defense.